Monday, April 11, 2011

I’m pretty sure God drops acid.

It drives me nuts that most tree identification material that’s readily available describes pretty much just the mature leaves, and possibly the bark. That’s nice. But what’s your amateur naturalist to do from October to April or May, when there are no leaves? This is why I love being able to identify stuff “out of season” (whose season would that be?) by the buds, which I learned how to do in grad school eleven years ago.
This time of year is just c-r-a-z-y, though, because you’ll come across some tree you hadn’t noticed before, and its buds or catkins or what have you, are popping open, and whoops! if you didn’t make a note of it over the course of the winter, you are doomed, my child, doomed.
Fortunately, I’m buddies with the local gray birches. And what a difference a day makes. To wit: yesterday:
Today: (note: not necessarily the same exact bud or catkin.)
What’s that fuscia stuff coming out of the end of the bud??? I’m totally confused. I would expect it to be Incipient Leaves – but don’t those look like wee little flower bits? But that doesn’t make sense, because the flowers on birches are on catkins. Birches are monoecious, which means that it has both male and female catkins (reproductive organs) on the same plant. (The word comes from Greek, for “one household”.) The Literature says that the female catkins are “erect” while the male catkins are “pendulous”. Whoa, I feel like I’ve just slipped in the gutter. Let’s be brave, and proceed anyway.
So if various reference sources are to be believed, the three catkins at left could be female, while the longer ones to the right would be males…right? Or maybe the ones at left just haven’t gotten their groove on?
Definitely male. Oooooh, yeah.
This brings me back to the bud. Try googling for images of buds just starting to open up. Yeah, good luck with that. Let’s look at more of them.
So the project here is, keep watching what happens with the buds. Watch all the catkins and see if I can tell which ones are female. And that was just the birches. Onwards!
Alders (Alnus serrulata) – in the birch family, so there’s the same male/female thing going on. These are the male catkins.
They’re a little more open than a couple of days ago. I have no idea what they’ll look like in another few days but it will be fun to find out. I’m going with, “high rise condos on the planet Xirkdlib”.
The lilacs are juuusssst starting to think about opening up. Let’s help the search engines – Syringa vulgaris.
They look like they’re sticking out their tongues. To review, here’s what they looked like a few days ago, on April 6th:
And now, for the day’s mystery plant!
This is on the famed side-of-the-driveway. When I first spotted it, I thought it was club moss, but I quickly learned that the whole point of club mosses is, they don’t flower. Here’s the big picture:
The leaves are whorled, in double pairs
And the flowers are pretty cute. I’m thinking this might be purple crowberry – Empetrum atropurpureum. Who knows. It’s blooming earlier than The Literature indicates, but it is on a south-facing slope…
Lastly – still with me? it’s been a big day, and I haven’t even had lunch yet – I was checking out the witch-hazel, and I saw all these weird things:
Believe it or not, I think these might be what their buds look like as they open up. Kind of monstery, but then again, a lot of close-up botanical stuff looks like someone dropped acid, so who am I to judge?

No comments:

Post a Comment